Wise Old Woman Part Two

If you missed Part One, where I talk about my executive coaching experience, it’s here.

My experience with the executive coach last fall was profound. It seemed to literally open my eyes; I saw things around me differently. Potential and possibility abounded; I didn’t feel boxed in or stuck. An adjustment to my work responsibilities synched up perfectly with this new direction, and it seemed that I had found my footing again.

I’m not one to lean on memes or flowery statements to live by, but I surely do respect the wisdom of the Bible. Whether or not you claim any religious faith, these ancient words hold a tremendous amount of history and insight regarding the human experience. So, when I read this verse in Jeremiah in December, it immediately clicked; so much so that I wrote about it (in conjunction with a shoe purchase.)

(Everything is spiritual, y’all. Even shoes. Maybe especially shoes.)

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‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ – Jeremiah 6.16

These words captured the direction I felt I was headed; exploring older, ‘ancient’ paths of spirituality, looking beyond the evangelical experience to define my understanding of self and of the Creator, looking for rest for my soul. It was all there, and I can’t express how powerfully it impacted me, except to say that it was light in the darkness. Rain after a drought. Hope, out of despair. Again, I’m not much for pithy statements and life verses to define myself, but this really hit home. And it seemed to come out of nowhere (quite frankly, I don’t do a lot of reading in Jeremiah on a regular basis – so it totally surprised me.)

Things began to click into place. I felt like I had direction and a purpose and clarity, and it all felt sanctified, as if the entire Universe had signed off on it, by which I mean the vast care and knowledge of all that I understand to be God was saying, ‘You go, girl!’

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My journal from early 2017 reeks of that clarity – page after page of promise. I made some decisions and took action. I started seeing a spiritual director, I sent in the deposit to confirm enrollment in a graduate program. I carpe diem-ed the crap out of my new responsibilities at work, with an intense conference trip to California and new ideas and hours of planning and processing.

And then, apparently, I forgot.

Or I got depressed.

Or I got tired. And depressed. And forgetful.

And even now as I write and process, I’m asking myself What the heck, girl? I mean, really?

How can you be given the gift of clarity and direction that so perfectly suits you and then just….forget?

I’m giving myself some grace. I’m acknowledging messy relationships, and illnesses, and sudden loss, and changes in the work place. There have been challenges with my kids. There have been a lot of rainy days. I think I can even blame Donald Trump for some of this.

The bottom line: I got distracted. All the important, necessary things in the whirlwind obliterated the kernel of brilliance that was the truth I claimed for myself as 2016 closed.

I was at a crossroads, and in coming to it, I asked for the ancient paths, the good way; and it was revealed. I understood and believed that the rest for my soul was in the walking of that way.

And then, I forgot.

So for the past two months, I’ve been whining. I’ve been morose. I’ve been, as we say in the spiritual sense, “struggling”. In processing with my friends and my family, my co-workers, my spiritual director, I’ve cried and talked about how tired I am and how ‘over it’ I feel, how vast and desolate the landscape of my inner life surely is. My recent journal entries are littered with sorrow and despair.

All of this I carried up to the semi-annual retreat for the senior leadership at my job. Several of us on this team have done life and work together now for over a decade. We know one another well; we have birthed and raised and married our kids, lived through illnesses and loss, celebrated together. These are, in short, my people. I trust them.

So in a time of casual conversation and debriefing the first night of our retreat, I opened my mouth and told the truth about the desolation I was feeling. I shared the story of my meeting with the executive coach, telling this group of friends for the first time of my deep desire to claim wisdom, to stop doing and fixing and running and meeting and talking and scrambling all of the time, and to simply be.

“I want to be a wise old woman”, I said to my friends, with tears in my eyes. It felt vulnerable and risky; there was so much sorrow attached to a simple, authentic desire. It was  indicative of how far I felt I was from living into that desire as reality; it displayed the depth of my confusion.

They listened. They affirmed. But they were, perhaps, as confused as I was about the depth of my despair. My friends know me well; sometimes they throw up their hands and just remind me that they love me, and they give me space and time to get over myself.

(That’s why they’re such good friends.)

I slept fitfully that night. In hindsight, I wonder if the fitful sleep was part of the preparation for the blunt-force trauma I received the next morning.

Because here’s a secret: I didn’t really tell you the truth.

There’s more to that lovely scriptural encouragement to ‘seek out the ancient paths and walk in the good way’.

I left out the last sentence. I discarded it. I didn’t need it.

I didn’t want it.

Because obviously it didn’t apply to me. Because I’m so spiritual. 

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But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

And that is my problem.

And I’ll write about that tomorrow.

This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ ” – Jeremiah 6.16

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